(WBIR - Madisonville) Jail overcrowding continues to be a problem across East Tennessee. For Monroe County, it is back to the drawing board in the commission's search for land to build a new jail.
The county jail in downtown Madisonville has been plagued with chronic overcrowding, frequently housing 70 prisoners beyond its capacity. The issue has become serious enough that the state has threatened to de-certify the jail unless the county shows progress on building a new facility.
In late-June, commissioners thought they finally found relief by settling on a new site for the jail on property along Highway 68. Just when things starting moving forward, the county now finds itself back at the starting line.
The county's plan was to purchase 20 acres of a 49 acre piece of property known as the Atkins Farm. The property the county agreed to pursue was located along the highway. The owners of the property then flipped the plan and only offered the county 20 acres at the rear of Atkins Farm that would require a more narrow and long entrance road to connect with Highway 68.
Last week the county voted unanimously to withdraw negotiations for the property at Atkins Farm and start over in its search for property to build a new jail.
Now commissioners will start fresh to find a new site and hopefully some closure to what has grown into a lingering debacle that threatens to potentially de-certify the county jail. However, at this time the county mayor has remained in contact with the state to make officials aware of the latest change of plans. The attorney working for the county on the project told 10News the state has remained supportive and continues to encourage the county to continue making progress in the search for new jail property.